KINGSPORT — In-person shopping. Online shopping. Curbside pickup.

Those three buying platforms are at the heart of Kingsport’s Buy Different, Buy Early, Buy Local initiative.

The effort is jointly supported by the Kingsport Times News and Kingsport Chamber.

“The name and its meaning ... holiday shopping was going to be different this year by means of in-person, online, etc. due to COVID,” said Billy Kirk, Kingsport Times News advertising director and vice president of advertising sales for parent company Six Rivers Media. “We felt that most local businesses would need to start the holiday shopping season and promotions much earlier than normal ... and not just a Black Friday one-day-only promotion. Finally, we needed to encourage our readers and shoppers to shop and support our local businesses in the area. We all benefit in the area with the community shopping our local businesses ... whether it’s just buying a gift card to a local business, shopping in-person or ordering online for the goods and services to our local businesses.

“We created the Buy Different, Buy Early, Buy Local directory on timesnews.net to help the local businesses in the area promote their holiday hours, specials/offers, and in-person shopping protocol due to COVID. Businesses can go online to timesnews.net to register their business for the Buy Different, Buy Early, Buy Local directory (free of charge to our local businesses in the area) by going to timesnews.net or going directly to the registration form buykingsport.whatsopenhere.com. Now readers can go online to timesnews.net to check out the directory of businesses in the area to see holiday hours, specials, offers and promotions. So, we really encourage our local businesses to go online and get their business registered.”

Bob Feagins, the chamber’s executive director of Communications and Development, said the goal is to support small businesses during the holiday season.

“We’re always promoting small business, especially this year with the effects of COVID,” Feagins said. “A lot of small businesses have struggled, so we’re really encouraging people to support small business owners this Christmas holiday season. We want people to be safe. If you can, you can purchase online or purchase gift cards.”

Aundrea Wilcox, executive director of the Kingsport Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said it helps the community when money stays in the community.

“Because of the pandemic, however, the current situation (is) grave,” she noted. “Amazon is not backing off. In fact, they have already opened several Amazon 4-Star Stores in quite a few states. It’s just a matter of time before they arrive here. If you want your local retail store to be around in 2021 and beyond, you need to make a commitment to buying local. Shoppers should dedicate 80% of their spending to Buy Local. And, that does not guarantee their favorite local stores will weather the storm that’s brewing ahead. Now is the time for local retailers to develop a customer experience strategy. It’s not about the stuff; it’s about the experience.”

What’s going on downtown this Christmas season?

Robin Cleary, executive director of the Downtown Kingsport Association, said downtown is being promoted as a safe place to shop during the holiday season.

“Merchants are offering online shopping as well as in-person,” Cleary pointed out. “Small Business Saturday is Nov. 28. (Business owners) have all agreed to wear masks in their shops and follow the county mandate. We’ve provided our merchants a gift basket with hand sanitizer and face masks. They’re following all of the COVID protocols.

“Holiday sales are always crucial for small business owners. It is typically 30 to 40% of sales for their year coming from holiday sales. They’ve all experienced a shutdown of some sort. It’s people you know, and you are keeping that money in your community.”